In front of 1,000 tech enthusiasts yesterday at HackMIT, a collegiate hackathon hosted at MIT, the Thiel Foundation announced it has once again begun accepting applications for the “20 Under 20” fellowship program.
Interested applicants under the age of 20 have from now until December 31, 2013 to apply.
Created by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, the Thiel Fellowship offers an opportunity for young adults to pursue their dreams through this two-year program. Besides being offered mentorship from accomplished entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, thinkers, and innovators, Thiel Fellows will each get a grant of $100,000.
But beyond the visible benefits, there’s a catch. Based on Thiel’s idea to push innovation and demonstrate – particularly to entrepreneurs – that there are more worthwhile paths to success than institutional education, Thiel Fellows must leave their employment or school to work on their ideas full-time.
Since beginning in 2011, the Thiel Fellowship has been awarded to over 60 young people, whose projects range in fields such as nuclear and alternative energy, mobile health, biotechnology, 3D printing, synthetic biology, public health, education, finance, and more.
Fellows determine their specific paths, whether it’s freelance work, developing a social movement, interning at a company, or pursuing independent research. Some applicants may already have a scientific, technical, or nonprofit project in progress, but the fellowship program is open to those without established companies or developed innovations too.
One added element this year is that applicants will be able to indicate their interest in potential internship opportunities within the Thiel Fellowship mentor network. Mike Gibson, the Vice President of Grants for the Thiel Foundation, explains that only 20 spots are available for the fellowship, so this would “create additional value” for applicants.
“During the application review, our mentors will likewise be able to indicate whether they’d be interested in interviewing an applicant for an internship or job opportunity, whether that applicant gets a fellowship or not,” said Gibson.
Applicants can go solo or apply in teams of up to four, provided that everyone is under 20. While the fellowship is a one-of-a-kind experience for young people, it’s also about opportunities for others.
“Whether a fellow starts or joins a company, researches ideas, enables social change, or does something entirely new, the common thread is how they improve not just the world, but the lives of others,” said Jim O’Neill, co-founder of the Thiel Fellowship.
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